Public Services > Central Government's MPA ‘red’ risk rating may be out of date

Neil Merrett Published 26 June 2015

MPA report's risk rating for health data sharing project understood to have been updated to amber/red following a spring review


Government Computing understands the Major Projects Authority (MPA) may have improved its risk rating for NHS England's to amber/red from red following a review conducted earlier this year, raising questions over the timeliness of findings in its newly published annual report.

The government published the third annual MPA report yesterday (June 25) outlining the delivery status, as of September 2014, of 188 government projects including, which was given a red rating.

According to the report, the red rating is given to projects where successful delivery is seen as being "unachievable" due to major issues with the definition, schedule, budget, service quality or overall benefit of a scheme that may not be manageable.

However, sources with knowledge of's progress have suggested that the report's rating may have been updated since September to a less severe amber/red rating that classes successful delivery being "in doubt" over issues within a number of key areas.

"Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible," the report says of the red/amber rating.

It is unknown whether other MPA-rated projects have similarly been revised since the September 2014 baseline on which the latest report is based.

Asked for comment on possible changes to risk ratings around government projects beyond the figures used to compile the present MPA report, the Cabinet Office has said it is only able to comment on data published in its latest report, which dates back to September 2014. A spokesperson said this was to ensure that senior responsible officers (SROs) in charge of each project have time to enact changes and address issues raised by the MPA.

According to the latest MPA report,'s delivery confidence rating had been set at red at the time concerning a need to clarify, agree and communicate the scope of the programme.

The findings additionally also called for the appointment of a full-time SRO on the project, while also reconstituting its programme board with a clear role and responsibilities and approving "explicit go/no go criteria" among proposed changes required. Commitments to assign owners to key risk and agree and clarify finances have also been put forward.

The reason for the possible change in rating may be due to a number of factors, including the Department of Health's creation in November 2014 of the role of national data guardian for health and care - appointing Dame Fiona Caldicott to the position.

Among her responsibilities to ensure "extra legislative safeguards" are in place for key patient record sharing strategies, Caldicott will also have the final say if data extraction should go ahead under the programme, having set authorities 27 questions to be answered around the privacy implications of the scheme.

The launch of, which aims to link up primary care and hospital information, was delayed from last year over criticisms of how authorities were explaining the implications to patients of how their details would be collected and shared between different organisations.

As part of the delayed launch, a select number of surgeries in the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) areas of Leeds, Somerset, West Hampshire and Blackburn with Darwen are preparing to pilot NHS England's programme as part of a 'pathfinder' phase.

Blackburn with Darwen has said it expects to be in a position later this month to start what it calls 'fair processing' - the time patients have to opt out to having their coded medical details held by GPs and hospitals stored with the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

According to the CCG, Somerset and West Hampshire are hoping to start the same process of testing communications around the programme at the beginning of September, with Leeds also expecting to commence work that month despite having yet to confirm its plans.

Considering more recent developments around the project, Kable research director Andrena Logue said the considerable delay to rolling out remained an area of concern.

"The failure to reassure many GPs, who in turn advised their patients, of any guaranteed security for health records sharing could impact on other R&D initiatives within the NHS. The DH does not have time on its hands and the next push to deploy the programme needs to work," she said.

Related articles:

NHS England yet to finalise extraction launch date

Clarification concerns leave Caldicott unsure of timing

Caldicott becomes first government health data tsar

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